BERKELEY - With the freshman class grabbing most of the headlines, the Cal women’s swimming team opened its home schedule with a 164-89 victory over Washington State Friday afternoon at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Newcomers took first place in six of the 12 individual events and anchored victories in both relays.
Freshman and multi-time Olympic and world champion Missy Franklin kicked off the afternoon with a final split of 48.09 on the freestyle leg to lead Cal A to first place in the 400-yard medley relay, pulling her foursome ahead in the last 50 yards. Soon after, Franklin captured one of her specialties – the 100-yard backstroke – in 54.37, which was nearly a second ahead of the field.
“Obviously, Missy’s credentials speak for themselves. It’s a really talented group with a lot of international experience and national experience,” Cal head coach Teri McKeever said of her freshmen. “That’s the type of young woman that we’re having access to. I think there’s really something special about being a freshman and it being your first opportunity to wear your Cal suit and your Cal cap on the Cal campus. You only get one first time. I’m really excited that a lot of them had good days that they will remember for a long time.”
In addition to Franklin, other freshmen who stood out on the day included Marina Garcia, Celina Li and Farida Osman. Garcia, an Olympian and World Championships finalist in the breaststroke events from Spain, claimed the 1000 free by nearly eight seconds with a time of 10:20.53. She also won the 200 breast in 2:17.51.
“Having international swimmers here, you have to race every day with them. It is so great for training,” said Garcia, whose teammates hail from eight different states, as well as Spain, Egypt, New Zealand, China and Hong Kong.
Li, who was named Queen of the Pool for her performance in a meet at Cal Poly two weeks ago, held off Franklin to win the 400 individual medley. Li touched the wall in 4:13.42 to Franklin’s 4:13.83 as she held her off on the final freestyle leg.
Osman, an Egyptian who is another Olympian and World Championships competitor on the Cal roster, prevailed in the 50 free (23.56) and 100 butterfly (55.07) and swam the final 50 yards on the winning 200 free relay (23.18 split).
The only two non-freshman to claim victory were both sophomores (and 2013 USA World Championships teammates) – Rachel Bootsma in the 200 fly (2:04.91) and Elizabeth Pelton in the 200 free (1:49.25).
Still, the meet was most special for the new faces who had their first opportunity to represent Cal in Berkeley. Afterwards, the entire team signed autographs for the fans in attendance.
“I remember the first time I ever swam in this pool,” Franklin said. “That was the first time I’ve been able to sign Missy with Bears underneath. It’s so surreal and I know it sounds so unbelievably corny, but seriously, it’s a dream come true. This has been the best decision I have ever made to be part of this team and to swim collegiately. What Teri does with the team is absolutely incredible. We’re not just a team, we’re a family. It’s incredible the relationships I’ve been able to form and relationships I can see forming. And I know they’re going to keep getting stronger throughout the season.”